An April 22 Baltimore Banner article about parental accountability for juvenile offenders in Baltimore prompts a critical question: Since when are we using fear tactics on parents?

Even when applying the rationale of responding more effectively to juvenile crime, a proposal by Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates to prosecute parents when their children are arrested fails to address the underlying conditions causing youth violence. It disregards the importance of investing in communities affected. One must wonder: What would happen to the children if their parents were imprisoned? Already, more than 3,600 children are in foster care in Maryland, enough to fill more than 75 school buses. Are we trying to add to that number?

There appears to be little consideration for the children’s lives if their parents are subject to imprisonment or other legal sanctions. There is no denying that something should be done and that there is a need for change, but this is not the change we asked for.

We did not ask that parents, already stretched to their limits, face further pressure from the government. We did not ask for parents to be stripped of their children, especially considering children of imprisoned parents face a tripled risk of displaying antisocial delinquent behavior. We did not ask to apply any vaguely worded law that might lend itself to biased application and which could disproportionately affect marginalized communities. We did not ask to prosecute inaction.

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Prosecuting parents would further marginalize already vulnerable families and do little to address the underlying disparities that fuel this issue. Instead, we must advocate for policies and programs that uplift families and provide them with the support they need to thrive.

Shanelle Quinn, Baltimore

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